There are at least two potential AHL changes on tap for coming seasons, as the Arizona Coyotes (NHL) are seeking to move the Springfield Falcons to Tuscon and the Ottawa Senators may seek to bring their top affiliate to Belleville (ON) down the line.
The plan to move the Falcons franchise to Tucson is already to the point where the Coyotes have submitted paperwork for a purchase of the franchise and a move in anticipation of May league meetings. This move comes after the shift of several AHL teams to the West Coast, setting up cost effective scheduling for California and Arizona teams with top affiliates in close proximity to their parents. And moving the Falcons to Tucson makes financial sense, say Coyotes officials: Tucson is the largest market in the United States with no pro or semi-pro teams. (That is mostly true; there is a semi-pro PDL team in town, and MLS teams spend a lot of time training there in February. And, of course, there is the University of Arizona, whose major teams — football, basketball, baseball — draw pretty well.)
“There’s no way Tucson doesn’t make sense,” Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc told reporters on a conference call on Wednesday. “It’s a great market with a large population of a million people, and it’s the largest market in the U.S. that doesn’t have a pro or semipro (sports) organization.”
If the move is approved, the team would play out of the Tucson Convention Center, which seats about 6,700 fans for hockey. It’s already home to the University of Arizona club team. The arena itself is in good shape; the team locker rooms and training facilities would need some TLC.
“They’ve put a significant amount of money into the building over the last two years,” LeBlanc said during that conference call, referring to the City and Rio Nuevo, which facilitates and participates in the development of a downtown Tucson “…They’ve replaced everything that their customer interacts with… The biggest challenge once we get everything settled will be dates in the building.”
While it’s very likely the AHL will approve the Falcons move, a potential move down the road could pose some issues, as there are rumors the Ottawa Senators want to seek the Binghamton Senators moved to Belleville. This would place the Sens’ top affiliate closer to the parent team, on the Canadian side of the border. From the Ottawa Sun:
While the Senators have an agreement to keep their AHL team in Binghamton through 2018-19 and they’d be happy to stay there, the talk in AHL circles is the club is investigating relocating the franchise to the Yardman Arena in Bellevile for the 2017-18 campaign.
If that happens, the belief is the Senators would try not to leave Binghamton empty-handed because the AHL considers it a strong market. It’s quite possible another NHL team could move its affiliate to Binghamton if the Senators are successful in negotiations with the city of Belleville and a potential buyer….
Mayor Taso Christopher told the Belleville Intelligencer last Thursday he is negotiating with a undisclosed group to bring some level of hockey back to the rink which has been vacant since the OHL left for Hamilton in 2015.
The issue will be finding an AHL team to replace the Sens.